She was a high-school boy’s dream and my mother’s worst nightmare, a five-foot-three gymnast who styled herself after the “Like a Virgin”-era Madonna. I can’t remember how or when we first met — in fact, I really only remember a handful of moments I shared with her — but there was chemistry between us.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of other things between us, too, and somehow that blistering-hot love affair that I always felt certain was about to take off… didn’t. Oh, we tried to get together. But one or the other of us was always dating someone, or just recovering from breaking up with someone, or the timing was otherwise off somehow. And there were other things as well that I really should keep to myself. Let’s just leave it with we tried. Oh brother, did we try! We flirted and we enjoyed the crackle in the air when the other was around, and occasionally when that electric buzzing got to be too much to ignore, we grabbed each other and ducked into a dark corner to see how breathless we could make each other before the next bell rang, and we really didn’t care if we were supposedly going with someone else. And then one day she caught up to me in the middle of a class period, when the halls were empty and we both should’ve been someplace else, and she delivered the news that she was moving away… the final obstacle that we would never be able to overcome. We kissed and necked a little, and as I remember it, we even cried a bit for the love that we’d never quite found together. And then she was gone.
It felt like we’d had a relationship, and it felt like we were breaking up. But in fact, we’d only managed to go on one actual date. I took her to see 38 Special when they played Salt Lake’s old Salt Palace Arena during the band’s 1986 Strength in Numbers tour. There was a lot of pot being smoked in the arena that night, and even though neither of us imbibed directly, I remember feeling giddy all during the show, and for hours afterward, even after I got home and was alone in my room with my ringing ears. I’ve always blamed the secondhand, but maybe it was really the feeling of being young and alive. Maybe it was the feeling of being with her.
Funny how a melody or even just a simple guitar chord can bring back so much of something you experienced for a brief time 30 years in the past. The big hit from Strength in Numbers was a song called “Like No Other Night,” but I always preferred the album’s second single, “Somebody Like You,” with its relentlessly catchy, upbeat throughline. It came up on my iPod today while I was out of the office for my afternoon walk. The early-autumn sunshine was warm and mellow on my face, and I felt my speed picking up to the song’s beat and my hands unconsciously beginning to strum an invisible guitar. And then I started lip-synching the lyrics that I recall singing along with the band when they played the song in 1986. I remember singing it for the girl in the Madonna-style lace gloves and bangles as she swayed at my side. And I remember singing it to her again after the show, in the leather-upholstered privacy of my monstrous old 1970 T-Bird as we waited for the parking lot to clear out.
I couldn’t find a traditional music video for the song, and I’m wondering if perhaps there wasn’t one made. But the one I did find is probably a better choice anyway, because it gives a flavor of the performance I saw that night so long ago and still remember so fondly: